As the story in ‘Tollesbury Time Forever’ slowly made known its gut-wrenching nature, I began to think it time to re-read Keri Hulme’s ‘The Bone Peopl...moreAs the story in ‘Tollesbury Time Forever’ slowly made known its gut-wrenching nature, I began to think it time to re-read Keri Hulme’s ‘The Bone People’. This puts ‘Tollesbury’ in good company indeed, for Hulme’s novel won the 1985 Booker Prize.
So re-read ‘Bone People’ I did, and then Stuart Ayris’s ‘Tollesbury’ once more, for good measure (it was no chore). And quickly realised the two novels share much more than the same ugly subject matter, albeit in variation. In each, a Simon is a central character. In each, the trespass done him is gradually revealed. In each, the author makes an appearance (in ‘Bone People’, the main female character is a Kerewin Holmes, in ‘Tollesbury’, Ayris enters briefly under his own name). In both stories, place is a virtual character and is evocatively written: the readers of ‘Bone People’ will feel the rough waters and winds of New Zealand’s coast deposit salt on their cheeks, and those of ‘Tollesbury’ will sniff the mud and brine of Essex’s stiller salt marshes. Pubs feature in both tales, and alcoholic excesses. So does music, with Hulme’s characters making their own and Ayris’s Simon cocking an ear and his soul to it.
The most important likenesses centre on tone and spirit. While the two narratives take their readers deep into ugliness, these are emotionally conflicting descents – good-heartedness and generosity are at at every turn and pause. The reader is compelled to stay the course, and is ultimately rewarded. The resolutions to both stories are uplifting.
Four stars for ‘Tollesbury Time Forever’, reluctantly given, as four and half stars is a more accurate rating. I have forgiven ‘The Bone People’ for the martial arts episode that appears mid story, and also award it four stars, again in place of four and a half.
Ave Judas: An SF Conspiracy Thriller It is the year of our Lord 2449. The Pope believes he has just forty-four days to avert a galactic Armageddon by d...moreAve Judas: An SF Conspiracy Thriller It is the year of our Lord 2449. The Pope believes he has just forty-four days to avert a galactic Armageddon by discrediting anew the most reviled man in history ... Owen Stonehaven is leading the strangest of lives. As a child, his mother gives him to a huge and fierce rat kangaroo; as an adult, the Church has him shut into a derelict and lightless spaceship. Freed, he returns to his home planet, a surreal place that is roamed by lizards of barely imaginable size, towering thunderbirds and ferocious marsupial lions - for on New Yamba a master cloner has been at work re-creating the megafauna of Australia's past. Owen's plan is to find the mysterious coin his mother stole on the day she died, a well-worn piece of silver he hopes will help reveal his true identity, and to await a visit by the brother he loves, Henry, a priest. Extremists detonate a bomb and Henry is hurt. Owen realises he is the subject of a conspiracy engineered by an all-powerful and ruthless man. As he begins to understand his origins, he finds he cannot shake the darkness at his core. Is betrayal in his genes?(less)
Not sure if this is good form or not, but here's a direct cut-and-paste of a four-star review posted on Amazon by Justin Lawrence ...
Cassian Brown ask...moreNot sure if this is good form or not, but here's a direct cut-and-paste of a four-star review posted on Amazon by Justin Lawrence ...
Cassian Brown asks us to imagine a world of human affairs in which the schism in the Catholic church is as wide as competing quadrants of the Milky Way. He asks us to imagine an alternative universe in which history's whipping boy is raised by mutant mega-fauna. It stretches credulity. But isn't that the point? I'll admit this is not my genre (or sub-genre) but I was drawn to this book by my curiosity about the idea, not new but still compelling, that Judas was perhaps Jesus's most devoted disciple, and he had been designated for disgrace. With a new twist, this veiled premise is then transported into the 25th century. Brown treats us to a juggling act of disparate component parts - the succession of Marianism; the unGodly effects of cloning; the enduring power of a mother's love; and even the nostalgic remnants of Australiana - and manages to keep them in the air long enough to convince. Long enough, even, to keep a boring rationalist like me reading.
The relationship between the brothers Owen and Henry, central figures to the unfolding of this eschatological drama, is strong and manages to ground the novel's wide-ranging themes. This is important. For me, the weakness of many sci-fi books is the sacrifice of characterization. Too often they are thin, mono-dimensional and contrived; their dialogue clunky and serving little purpose other than a cheap means of exposition and plot development. The conflicts and motivations of Brown's characters are psychologically sound; they are well drawn. Scenes such as Owen's solitary confinement are a triumph of imagination, evoking the forsaken at the tinny edges of the universe. The reasons for his resilience and recovery kept me intrigued. Henry, meanwhile, is the shovel-in-hand Trinitarian with access to the Pontiff's confidence but who habors a certain frailty of character. They are both flawed but potentially great and this makes me care about them and their fate, even more so than the cherished universe at stake.
A page-turner and thought-provoker. Ave Judas doesn't quite win me over to the genre but certainly gives me respect for the powers of Brown's literary conjuring. And, as an aside, I enjoyed the preview of the inevitable progression of hand-held devices. An iHolo anyone? Sadly, the service providers aren't going to improve the quality of their coverage in the next several hundred years. (less)